Monday, December 3, 2012


Meaning: in cricket, a hundred runs; also known as a century. The OED has this as definition 5a.(colloq*), but wiktionary recognises that cricket is its own special linguistic category, and describes this sense as 7. (cricket). May or may not have been borrowed from darts, where a ton means a hundred points.

Usefulness: 2 (its usefulness is variable - for example, Australia did not get to use it today**. Can be extended figuratively to a hundred of anything, such as blog posts: "This post brings up the ton for Six Degrees of Sir Thomas.")

Logofascination: 1 (Words often reveal our assumptions or biases; I have a metrical bias*** - since a tonne is 1000kg, I wondered how a ton could be 100 of anything. All the senses of ton - weight, lots of anything, a hundred of anything - are originally from the word we now know as tun, a very old word for a very large cask. The cricket term is possibly a specialised application of the sense 'lots of anything'.)

In the wild: in various cricket headlines

Degrees: 2

Connections: ton - tun

Which is used in: G&P, First Book (Gargantua), XIV: How Gargantua was taught Latin by a Sophister. Here Rabelais describes Gargantua's writing implements in order to give an impression of his size:
... he did learn to write in Gothic characters, and that he wrote all his books--for the art of printing was not then in use--and did ordinarily carry a great pen and inkhorn, weighing about seven thousand quintals (that is, 700,000 pound weight), the penner whereof was as big and as long as the great pillars of Enay, and the horn was hanging to it in great iron chains, it being of the wideness of a tun of merchant ware.
It should be noted that Gargantua's size varies dramatically, depending on Rabelais' narrative requirements.

*short for colloquial, the OED's polite way of saying it's slang.
**or in the past week, for that matter, except in connection with Ricky Ponting's history.
*** it's just so much tidier.

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